A mother has a daughter with a hearing disability.

A father is a kidney transplant recipient with two sons in the school system.

A high school student sees many of her peers “masking up” but a good number of them also refusing to do so.

These people all have one thing in common: they want to keep Oconee County Schools open. Some just have different suggestions on how to accomplish that goal.

More than 20 residents, including both parents and students, spoke at Monday’s Board of Education meeting about their desires on how OCS should proceed with the spring semester.

Additionally, four principals and Student Services Director Dallas LeDuff provided updates about COVID-19 mitigation measures. 

Citizens give input

Kidney transplant recipient George McMahon said he and his family moved to the county during the pandemic because they knew schools would be open for his middle school boys. 

However, he did not think it was conducive to student learning for his or other children with immunocompromised family members to be looking around their classroom to see if they could move or trying to find an excuse to get out of class.

NOHS sophomore Anna Kai Takeuchi, whose mother is a general practitioner, also spoke in support of a mask mandate at Monday’s meeting. 

She cited a University of California study which stated that wearing a mask would bring down an area’s infection rates by 65 percent. She also shared that she regularly sees some of her fellow students disregarding health rules and recommendations.

“We’re not calling for schools to close. We’re not calling to go online,” she added. “We are calling for a mask mandate so that we can keep schools open, and we believe this is the safest way to do so.” 

Jenny Smith spoke in support of OCS as a mother of four children. She wanted the school system to remain open so that other families don’t have to navigate the difficulties of distance learning again. In the spring, she had to teach five students and help one of her daughters, who can’t hear in one ear, navigate distance learning. 

She pointed out a WSB-TV report which found that students in 173 of Georgia’s school districts, including Oconee, had been negatively impacted by the “digital divide” of remote learning. 

She said many children never logged onto their distance learning platforms.

“Each family unit is the most qualified to make health, mask-wearing and educational decisions for their kids,” Smith said. “They already have everything they need to decide the best option for their family.” 

For more on this story, see the Jan. 14 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website. 

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